Welcome to THE MAKING OF A NATION - American history in VOA Special English.
Quincy Adams was sworn in as president of the United States on March fourth,
eighteen twenty-five. A big crowd came to the Capitol building for the
ceremony. All the leaders of government were there: senators, congressmen,
Supreme Court justices and James Monroe, whose term as president was ending.
week in our series, Steve Ember and Shirley Griffith talk about John Quincy
Adams, the sixth president of the United States.
Quincy Adams spoke to the crowd. The main idea in his speech was unity. Adams
said the Constitution and the representative democracy of the United States had
proved a success. The nation was free and strong. And it stretched from the
Atlantic Ocean across the continent of North America to the Pacific Ocean.
the past ten years, he noted, political party differences had eased. So now, he
said, it was time for the people to settle their differences to make a truly
national government. Adams closed his speech by recognizing that he was a
minority president. He said he needed the help of everyone in the years to
come. Then he took the oath that made him the sixth president of the United
Quincy Adams had been raised to serve his country. His father was John Adams,
the second president of the United States. His mother, Abigail, made sure he
received an excellent education. There were three major periods in John Quincy
Adams's public life. The period as president was the shortest.
about twenty-five years, Adams held mostly appointed jobs. He was the United
States ambassador to the Netherlands, Germany, Russia, and Britain. He helped
lead the negotiations that ended the War of Eighteen Twelve between Britain and
the United States. And he served eight years as secretary of state. He was
president for four years after that. Then he served about seventeen years in
the House of Representatives. He died in eighteen forty-eight.
secretary of state, Adams had two major successes. He was mostly responsible
for the policy called the Monroe Doctrine. In that policy, President James
Monroe declared that no European power should try to establish a colony
anywhere in the Americas. Any attempt to do so would be considered a threat to
the peace and safety of the United States.
other success was the Transcontinental Treaty with Spain. In that treaty, Spain
recognized American control over Florida. Spain also agreed on the line marking
the western American frontier. The line went from the Gulf of Mexico to the
Rocky Mountains. From there, it went to the Pacific Ocean, along what is now
the border between the states of Oregon and California.
Quincy Adams did not care for political battles. Instead, he tried to bring his
political opponents and the different parts of the country together in his
cabinet. His opponents, however, refused to serve. And, although his cabinet
included southerners, he did not really have the support of the South.
in his administration tried to use the political power that he refused to use.
One was Vice President John C. Calhoun of South Carolina. Calhoun hoped to be
president himself one day. He tried to influence Adams's choices for cabinet
positions. Adams rejected Calhoun's ideas and made his own choices.
James Barbour, a former governor of Virginia, became secretary of war. Richard
Rush of Pennsylvania became secretary of the treasury. And William Wirt of
Maryland continued as attorney general. Adams thought he had chosen men who
would represent the different interests of the different parts of the country.
his first message to Congress, President Adams described his ideas about the
national government. The chief purpose of the government, he said, was to
improve the lives of the people it governed. To do this, he offered a national
program of building roads and canals. He also proposed a national university
and a national scientific center.
said Congress should not be limited only to making laws to improve the nation's
economic life. He said it should make laws to improve the arts and sciences,
people of the West and South did not believe that the Constitution gave the
national government the power to do all these things. They believed that these
powers belonged to the states. Their representatives in Congress rejected
political picture in the United States began to change during the
administration of John Quincy Adams. His opponents won control of both houses of
Congress in the elections of eighteen-twenty-six.
men called themselves Democrats. They supported General Andrew Jackson for
president in the next presidential election in eighteen twenty-eight.
major piece of legislation during President Adams's term involved import taxes.
A number of western states wanted taxes on industrial goods imported from other
countries. The purpose was to protect their own industries.
states opposed import taxes. They produced no industrial goods that needed
protection. And they said the Constitution did not give the national government
the right to approve such taxes.
needed the support of both the West and South to get Andrew Jackson elected
president. So they proposed a bill that appeared to help the West, but was sure
to be defeated. They thought the West would be happy that Democrats had tried
to help. And the South would be happy that there would be no import taxes.
the Democrats' surprise, many congressmen from the Northeast joined with
congressmen from the West to vote for the bill. They did so even though the
bill would harm industries in the Northeast. Their goal was to keep alive the
idea of protective trade taxes.
bill passed in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. This left
President Adams with a difficult decision. Should he sign it into law? Or
should he veto it?
he signed the bill, it would show he believed that the Constitution permitted
protective trade taxes. That would create even more opposition to him in the
South. If he vetoed it, then he would lose support in the West and Northeast.
Adams signed the bill. But he made clear that Congress was fully responsible
were other attempts by Democrats in Congress to weaken support for President
Adams. For example, they claimed that Adams was misusing government money. They
tried to show that he, and his father before him, had become rich from
accused him of giving government jobs to his supporters. This charge was false.
Top administration officials had urged Adams to give government jobs only to
men who were loyal to him. Adams refused. He felt that as long as a government
worker had done nothing wrong, he should continue in his job.
his four years as president, he removed only twelve people from government
jobs. In each case, the person had failed to do his work or had done something
criminal. Adams often gave jobs to people who did not support him politically.
He believed it was completely wrong to give a person a job for political
reasons. Many of Adams's supporters, who had worked hard to get him elected,
could not understand this. Their support for him cooled.
political battle between Adams's Republican Party and Jackson's Democratic
Party was bitter. Perhaps the worst fighting took place in the press. Each side
had its own newspaper. The Daily National Journal supported the administration.
The United States Telegraph supported Andrew Jackson.
first, the administration's newspaper called for national unity and an end to
personal politics. Then it changed its policy. The paper had to defend charges
of political wrongdoing within the Republican Party. It needed to turn readers
away from these problems. So it printed a pamphlet that had been used against
Andrew Jackson during an election campaign.
pamphlet accused Jackson of many bad things. The most damaging part said he had
taken another man's wife. That will be our story on the next program of THE
MAKING OF A NATION.
program was written by Frank Beardsley. The narrators were Shirley Griffith and
Steve Ember. Transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our programs are online, along
with historical images, at voaspecialenglish.com. Join us each week for THE
MAKING OF A NATION - an American history series in VOA Special English.
This is program #54 of THE
MAKING OF A NATION